Posted tagged ‘photography’

Travels with a compact camera.

April 22, 2010

I have mentioned on this blog before that  it’s all about the photographer, and not about the camera.  It’s still true! 

I’ve been invited by a local photographic club to talk to them about using digital compact cameras, compared to using digital SLRs.  At that talk I’ll mention the benefits, and the challenges, of creative photography with compact cameras. 

On the basis that I should practice what I will preach, on a trip round the Cotswolds yesterday I took my Panasonic Lumix FX-500 digital compact with me instead of my Nikon DSLRs.  Why?  Well, it was a day off, and I didn’t want to carry a large, heavy DSLR and loads of large aperture lenses with me.  OK, so the ultimate image quality on a digital compact with a small sensor isn’t as good as a DSLR, but as I wasn’t planning to produce large prints that didn’t matter.  Also it was a sunny day, and these small sensor cameras work very well when it’s sunny. 

We stopped for lunch on the way to our final destination, and I was able to get a nice abstract image through some distorting glass.  Simple with the close focusing ability of the FX-500. 

"Distorting glass" by Gale Photography

The Cotwolds looked fantastic in the Spring sunshine, and driving across them was a real pleasure.  After a quick divert to Adlestrop, made famous in the poem that starts with, “Yes, I remember Adlestrop…”, we arrived at our destination.  Chastleton House, in Oxfordshire, is one of England’s finest and most original Jacobean houses.

"Chastleton House facade" by Gale Photography

The facade of the house, unaltered since it was built, looked fab  in the spring sunshine.  The only problem was getting an image with no other visitors in it.  You need patience whatever camera you are using. 

Chastleton operates a timed ticket system, so while we were waiting, we took the opportunity to look round the gardens.  The daffodils were mostly over but other spring flowers were looking at their best. 

"Chastleton flowers" by Gale Photography

I dropped the camera down to a low viewpoint with a wide-angle lens (24mm equivalent), so I could concentrate on the foreground flowers, whilst still showing the mass of other flowers.  

"Chastleton fritillaries" by Gale Photography

In this second flower image, I’ve used a wide-angle lens and a low viewpoint looking upwards, to show the flowers against the trees and sky in the background.  Easy to see the image on the compact camera’s rear screen; not so easy with a DSLR unless it has Live View. 

The house is well worth a visit, if only for the Long Gallery with the longest barrel-vaulted ceiling in Britain.  The plasterwork is fabulous.  To get a good shot I used a technique that works really well.  I turned off the flash, set the self timer, put the camera on the floor, pressed the shutter, and stepped back.  Result? A sharp image. 

"Chastleton ceiling" by Gale Photography

On the way back to the car after visiting the house, we saw these spring lambs sunning themselves under the dovecote.  Lambs and the Cotswolds really go together, as the landscape has been shaped by years of sheep farming. 

"Chastleton lambs" by Gale Photography

So, having a digital compact camera on your belt allows you to get great images without lugging a DSLR about.  You just need to work within its limitations. 

Although yesterday was a day off for me, I was still taking pictures.  That’s how it is when you’re passionate about photography.  If you want to develop your passion for photography, come along to one of my training courses and be inspired. 




Get on down – for the sake of clarity

March 4, 2010

There are signs of spring here in Southern England.  The snowdrops are almost over, the birds are nesting like mad, and all of those lovely spring flowers are getting ready to pop out.  What with the days getting longer as well, the winter hibernation of many photographers will soon be over too. So how do you get great photographs of the new season’s growth?  Well, here are some photo tips.  

It pays to get yourself down to the level of the plants themselves.  What you are trying to produce with outdoor plant and flower pictures is something that sums up the plant/flower and its environment.  If you stay at normal human height relative to the plant you’ll just get a shot of it from above.  Drop down and you can simplify the image. 

"Snowdrops" by Gale Photography

"Snowdrops" by Gale Photography

Here the snowdrops were in a raised bed which meant that I didn’t have to drop down so far.  Here I’ve gone for three clumps of snowdrops, rather than isolating a single flower.  Snowdrops look their best as drifts of flowers, with each clump of flowers relying on the others for the best effect, so I’ve tried to record that here. 

If you can’t bend down or lie down on the ground to get a low viewpoint, it can be hard to see the viewing screen on the back of your camera.  The Panasonic Lumix FX-500 compact digital camera that I used for the snowdrops picture, has a rear screen viewing angle option for where you hold the camera above your head.  If you set it to that, and then turn the camera upside down, you can hold it closer to the ground and still see the screen clearly. 

As another example of the simplifying effect of getting down to where the flowers are, here’s a shot of a cowslip (primula). 

"Cowslip" by Gale Photography

"Cowslip" by Gale Photography

I’ve been able to make the flower the simple main subject.  You can tell that the plant is growing in a grassy area, yet the background is not distracting whilst still having enough detail to give you an idea of the plant’s environment. 

You can do this with other plant types as well.  Here’s a shot of some catkins on a weeping silver birch tree. 

"Silver birch catkins" by Gale Photography

"Silver birch catkins" by Gale Photography

I chose a low viewpoint that was level with the catkins (lovely word!), and made an image that had just two of the catkins and some newly emerged leaves.  The leaves have that fabulous acid green colour that only spring can produce.  By using a long focal length lens, I’ve thrown the background well out of focus.  We cover how to achieve this sort of image on our outdoor photography training – the Gale Photography Photo Treks. 

Finally, one of the classic flowers of Southern England is the snakeshead fritillary.  They love damp areas, and I’m lucky enough to have them growing in my garden, by the pond.  They are one of the few plants in nature to have a regular checkerboard pattern. 

"Snakeshead fritillary" by Gale Photography

"Snakeshead fritillary" by Gale Photography

The ground was pretty wet, so I put a waterproof sheet on the ground and laid on that.  You do need to be careful that you won’t damage any plants when you do this.  The foreground plant was fully out, and the two others; one white, one normal, were still to flower fully.  This gave a good contrast with the flower that was out. 

I hope that you’ll try some of these techniques for yourself this spring, and perhaps I’ll see you on a Photo Trek soon. 



Bringing back the craft

January 27, 2010

2010 marks the start of my 10th year in business as a professional photographer!!! 

It’s been a fascinating ten years, and the one thing that has remained constant is this; the need to continually change!   My latest change is that I’ve launched a new portrait photography service and a new wedding photography service, and updated my website to reflect these changes. 

The reason for the change is simple; now that nearly everyone has a digital camera, I think that the very informal “reportage” style of image popular in the “Noughties” is undervalued.  I reckon that professional photographers need to demonstrate their skill and creativity by using a wide range of lighting techniques inside the studio, and by taking carefully composed, unusual, and distinctive portraits when shooting on location – so that’s what I’m doing!  

Here’s an example of what I mean… 

"Directional light studio portrait" by Gale Photography

"Directional light studio portrait" by Gale Photography

This studio portrait uses a hard-edged strongly directional light to create a pool of light with areas of shadow.  It allows us to concentrate on the person’s face. 

Contrast it with the next studio portrait, where natural light from a window gave much softer lighting (nature’s softbox!), yet still produced a very powerful image.

"Window light portrait" by Gale Photography

"Window light studio portrait" by Gale Photography

In both cases the background is dark, but the difference in lighting creates a different mood in each image. 

The same emphasis on lighting is used for location portraits.  This image uses off-camera flash, and that flash was balanced with the ambient light to create a dramatic mood, again with areas of light and shadow. 

"Off-camera flash outside" by Gale Photography

"Off-camera flash location portrait" by Gale Photography

This style of portrait is much harder to get right than using more diffuse light, but the end results are definitely worth it.  They’re more dramatic, more individual, and more different.

The same philosophy applies to the new wedding photography service.  All of your friends and family will be taking loads of informal images, so instead of doing the same, I’m now offering a bride and groom “wedding fashion shoot”.  In this shoot the emphasis is on producing a great set of distinctive images of the two of you, and of each of you.

"Bridal Fashion Portrait" by Gale Photography

"Bridal Fashion Portrait" by Gale Photography

Sounds interesting?  You can find out more about this exciting new portrait and wedding photography service at the new Gale Photography website at   Have a look and let me know what you think. 


Gale Photography

“And so this is Christmas”

December 24, 2009

OK, so it’s traditional at Christmas/New Year to summarise how the year has been.  Why should I be any different?  

This year has been fun!!!   Let me tell you why…   

Being a social photographer and photographic trainer is as much about working with people as it is about photography, and it’s people that make life interesting.  Every portrait shoot, every wedding, and every photographic training session is different.  It’s because the people involved are different, the circumstances are different, and if you are shooting outside the light is always different.  Take this recent portrait shoot at my studio. 

"Off camera flash portrait" by Gale Photography
“Off camera flash portrait” by Gale Photography

I’ve used this background many times before, but during the portrait shoot the sun came out low to the right and turned her hair golden.  A quick balance of the sunlight with off-camera flash, and it’s a very stylish image.  The light changed everything.  On another day the images would have a completely different feel to them.

At weddings the brides and grooms have reacted to their day in different ways.  Some were calm & collected taking the day as it comes, some were excited & wanted everything to be “just so”.  However they were it was a real privilege to have been their wedding photographer, and to have helped them remember their day. 

"Bride arriving" by Gale Photography

"Bride arriving" by Gale Photography

Here I was able to shoot with available light, which gave a nice pale background, and record the emotion in the bride’s face as she arrived in her wedding car at the church. 

On our photographic training courses we’ve had a great mix of people, from serious amateurs, to people with simple compact cameras who just want to take better photographs.  Every course has had its own atmosphere and direction, I’ve had a lot of fun, and I always learn something too! 

"Window abstract" by Gale Photography

"Window abstract" by Gale Photography

So I’d like to say a big “Thank You” to all of our portrait photography and wedding photography clients, to our photographic training course delegates, and also to our blog subscribers.  I’m looking forward to another year of photographic fun in 2010!

Have a great New Year.


Creative Christmas Photography: Episode 2

December 10, 2009

Hello, and welcome to the second and final episode of my “Tips for better Christmas photography”.

Here’s the next tip…

Photography Tip #3. Opening Presents – Shoot in Continuous Mode

There are certain moments during Christmas that give you lots of photographic opportunities and the opening of presents is one of them.  There’s loads of emotions, expressions and excitement – especially if you’ve got kids around. 

"Christmas presents" by Gale Photography

"Christmas presents" by Gale Photography

Set your camera on burst/continuous-shooting mode, and take lots of pictures. You’ll find you get a great series of shots that capture everything from anticipation, to the excitement of unwrapping, to pleasure of seeing what’s inside.  Don’t forget to shoot the reactions of those who GIVE the gift as well.  When you are the present giver get someone else to take the pictures!

Photography Tip #4. Capture the preparation stages

The actual Christmas meal or party is obviously the best part of the day, but there are other photographic opportunities, particularly in the preparation stages; putting up decorations, food preparation, wrapping gifts, excited children, Santa outfits hanging on the door, setting the table, lighting the candles, relatives arriving. 

"Christmas tree candle" by Gale Photography

"Christmas tree candle" by Gale Photography

All of these add to the Christmas atmosphere. You could also take a series showing how a room has changed as it’s decorated – or a series showing the different ingredients for the meal – or before and after images of kids in fancy dress.

Photography Tip #5.  I’m dreaming of a grey Christmas

Lastly, if you are lucky and have a white Christmas, you may be disappointed at how grey looking the snow pictures are.  This is because camera exposure meters are set to record scenes with fairly equal areas of dark and light all over the frame.  Scenes with lots of white in them, such as snow, make camera underexpose, which lets in too little light to make the snow properly white. 

"Underexposed snow" by Gale Photography

"Underexposed snow" by Gale Photography

You can make the snow whiter by setting the exposure compensation on your camera.  (Read your camera manual if you aren’t sure how to do this).   Try a setting of +1 first and see how it looks.  If you need more just dial +1½ or +2 of compensation.  Ideally it will be white but still with some texture; if it’s just plain white then you’ve gone too far.  Remember to reset it once you are away from the snow. 

"Properly exposed snow" by Gale Photography

"Properly exposed snow" by Gale Photography

Tip within a tip: If you’ve got your camera cold by using it outside, don’t take it straight back into your nice, warm, humid house or you risk getting lots of condensation on, or inside it.  Delicate electronics don’t like this!! Leave it in your coat pocket in the hall for ½ an hour or so to let it warm up slowly.

I hope these tips help you get better Christmas photos.  Remember even though it comes round once a year, things change in our lives and it’s important to get the best images we can every year.

Have a great Christmas and a phabulously photographic New Year.

If you’ve enjoyed these tips, do tell your friends about them.  If you would like to enjoy a whole day packed with tips and techniques for great photography, come along to one of our photographic training courses.  Have a look at for details.

Space is ace.

November 19, 2009

I love filling the frame in my portrait images.  I reckon that as I’ve paid for all those pixels I might as well use them all.  However, there are times when you get a better image by leaving empty space in the frame. 

Take this studio portrait of a child for example.  I really liked the expression on his face, and the tilt of his head to the right, and thought that placing him in the left-hand side of the frame made for an interesting composition. 

"Portrait looking left" by Gale Photography

"Portrait looking left" by Gale Photography

With this environmental portrait, the child’s head is in a similar place, with a similar amount of empty space, but the different expression and close-up treatment makes for a completely different effect.  The dark area of background is balanced by the light area of his face.

"Portrait looking out" by Gale Photography

"Portrait looking out" by Gale Photography

Finally, with this outdoor portrait lit by studio flash, the relationship between the child in the foreground and the darker plants in the background was important.  I placed him well down in the frame to allow us to see past him to the mysterious background.

"Portrait looking straight out" by Gale Photography

"Portrait looking straight out" by Gale Photography

This use of off-centre composition, and creative use of space, is covered in our photographic training course “The Creative Eye”.  You can find details at

Only connect

October 29, 2009

One of the best things about being a social photographer is that you are working with people.  Landscapes may be beautiful to photograph, but people are really interesting.  It’s been our pleasure to work with some families more than once, and we’ve become the “photographers of choice” for their family events.

Here’s an example.  We photographed Claire and Chris’s wedding a few years ago at Newtown Church, and Elcot Park near Newbury.  They had a fabulous wedding day, and so did we.  They were great fun to work with, and the croquet match will live in my memory for ever…

Clare & Chris by Gale Photography

Claire & Chris by Gale Photography

Also at their wedding, with his fiance Stephanie, was Claire’s brother Iain.  He was one of the ushers. 

Steph & Iain by Gale Photography

Stephanie & Iain by Gale Photography

They loved Claire & Chris’s wedding images, and we were delighted when they chose us to photograph their wedding as well.  Fast forward to 2009 and it’s their turn.  Their wedding at Sonning Church, and The Berystede Hotel at Ascot, was delightful, and it was great to meet everyone again.

Stephanie & Iain by Gale Photography

Stephanie & Iain by Gale Photography

To  make it all nicely symmetrical, Claire & Chris were at Stephanie & Iain’s wedding.  Claire was a bridesmaid, Chris was an usher, and they had their young son with them.


Claire & Chris & son by Gale Photography

It’s always special to be asked to photograph someone’s wedding.  It is after all one of the most important days of their life, and they’re putting their trust in you to do a great job.   If you know the people from a previous event, it gives everything an extra edge, and of course, you’re under even more pressure to deliver.   That’s what makes it such great fun!!